Los Angeles Rams star defensive lineman Aaron Donald’s holdout finally ended Saturday, on its 44th day, when he reported to the team facility and passed his physical. Donald will not play in Sunday’s regular-season opener against the Indianapolis Colts. He has not received a new contract, but both sides will continue to work toward one. The Rams sought a roster exemption that will allow Donald to be placed on the active roster without having to cut an additional player.

Tanzel Smart, a rookie sixth-round pick, is expected to start in Donald’s place, lining up alongside nose tackle Michael Brockers and defensive end Ethan Westbrooks. Donald risked missing one of his 17 game checks for the 2017 season if he did not show up before Sunday’s 4:05 p.m. ET kickoff. He had been fined somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.4 million for not showing up during training camp or in the preseason, but a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that the Rams have waived those fines.

Donald, 26, is set to earn a combined base salary of less than $9 million in 2017 and 2018, the final two years of his rookie contract. But he is seeking to be compensated as the game’s highest-paid defensive player, and it sounds as if the Rams are willing to make that happen. The highest-paid defensive player is Denver Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller, who signed a six-year, $114 million extension last summer that guarantees him $70 million. Next is Ndamukong Suh, who plays Donald’s position and signed a six-year, $114.375 million contract with the Miami Dolphins in 2015 that guarantees him nearly $60 million.

But those players signed their extensions after five NFL seasons. The best comparison for Donald is J.J. Watt, the only one among the five highest-paid defensive players to sign his deal after three seasons. Watt received a six-year, $100 million deal from the Houston Texans that guaranteed him about $52 million, though that came in 2014. Donald has been staying in shape at his alma mater of Pittsburgh and could be ready to return to the defense as early as Week 2, at home against Washington, but the Rams won’t play him until they are certain he is ready.

Rams officials — a group that includes chief operating officer Kevin Demoff, general manager Les Snead and senior assistant Tony Pastoors — flew to Atlanta to meet with Donald’s representatives at CAA on Aug. 30 but left no closer to an agreement. The two sides still aren’t believed to have made any major breakthroughs in negotiations. By not reporting earlier, though, Donald avoided the risk for injury and ultimately did not lose money.

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